by Diana Wallis Taylor
With Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate coming out in June, people ask me how I can write a whole book about a woman who appears only briefly in one paragraph of one of the Gospels. I tell them, that this is where your research comes in.
As with any other obscure character, you need to know about the people around them; family, friends, etc. Some called Claudia “Procula” and some suggested she did not exist. There were many suppositions as to what happened to her and to Pontius Pilate. I read all the accounts of her I could get my hands on to get as clear a picture in my mind as possible. In time a character forms that I picture as my subject. I can “see” her and begin to feel the emotions she experiences.
I draw on incidents in my own life and consider how they affected me and how I felt as I experienced them. Some incidents I draw on the experiences of others I know who have gone through this trauma. As I began to delve into Claudia’ family history, I found she was the illegitimate daughter of Julia, daughter of Caesar Augustus. Julia was married at 14 to a cousin; widowed at 16; married to Agrippa, 41; widowed just before their fifth child was born, and then while still grieving, married to Tiberius by order of the emperor.
Tiberius was the designated successor to Augustus and hated Julia for being forced to divorce the wife he loved. Yet one did not say no to the emperor. It was bad for one’s health. The feeling was mutual on Julia’s part and the only child born of that union died in infancy. Julia finally rebelled against all the manipulation by being promiscuous, which was an extremely polite word for what she was doing. Tiberius, who was humiliated by her actions and growing reputation, took off for Rhodes leaving Augustus to serve the divorce papers.
To save her life, Augustus exiled Julia to a remote island for five years and then finally relented and allowed her to live out her life in a small villa in Reggio at the tip of the boot of Italy.
Claudia was born, her father unknown. There was more but I leave that to my readers. Was there a story here? Yes indeed, and an exciting one to write!
If you want to write historical fiction, pick a character and then find out all you can about them.
Your story will begin to form itself.
Diana Wallis Taylor is a speaker and the author of eight books; five Biblical Fiction, three Christian fiction, and is co-author of an Easter cantata. She has taught workshops on poetry and Biblical Fiction. She and her husband, Frank, live in San Diego, California, where she serves on the Board of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild.